Iran’s football federation says it has lodged a complaint to FIFA over the removal of the word “Allah” from the Islamic Republic’s flag on social media posts by its counterpart in the United States, ahead of an upcoming World Cup game between the two countries.
“In an unprofessional act, the Instagram page of the US football federation removed the Allah symbol from the Iranian flag,” state news agency IRNA reported on Sunday. “The Iran Football Federation sent an email to FIFA to demand it issue a serious warning to the US federation,” it added.
There was no immediate public response from world football’s governing body to the reported complaint, which came as the US prepares to face Iran in a decisive World Cup match on Tuesday — a fixture already burdened by the decades of enmity between the countries.
Meanwhile, the US and Iran cut diplomatic relations in 1980.
The United States Soccer Federation (USSF) said in a statement on Sunday morning it had decided to forego the official flag on social media accounts in a show of solidarity with the “women in Iran fighting for basic human rights” in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini in police custody.
The Islamic Republic’s flag consists of three horizontal bands in red, white and green with the word “Allah” appearing in stylised script in the middle.
The Twitter account of the US men’s team displayed a banner with the squad’s matches in the group stage, with the Iranian flag only bearing its green, white and red colours. The same was seen in a post on its Facebook and Instagram accounts laying out the point totals so far in its group.
By Sunday afternoon, the normal flag with the emblem had been restored in the Twitter banner, and the Facebook and Instagram posts with the altered flag had been removed.
“We wanted to show our support for the women in Iran with our graphic for 24 hours,” the federation said.
The United Nations says more than 300 people have been killed amid a crackdown on the protests which erupted in the wake of Amini’s death in September, and some 14,000 have been arrested, including children. Iran has accused the US and other foreign states of fomenting the demonstrations, without providing evidence.
It is not expected that FIFA will take any such action.
Meanwhile, the two nations’ prospects on the pitch at the World Cup remain finely posed.
Iran’s dramatic 2-0 win over Wales and the US team’s tense goalless stalemate against England on Friday set up a tantalising final round of Group B matches.
England, sitting top with four points, face the bottom side Wales, meaning the Iran-United States contest will decide which team goes through to the round of 16.
The eagerly awaited meeting is a rematch of the 1998 World Cup group stage contest, dubbed the “mother of all games”, which Iran won 2-1. In a symbolic moment before that match at Lyon’s Stade Gerland, the Iranian players gave white roses, a symbol of peace in the country, to their American opponents.